We packed up and headed into Nelson town centre to have a look round and treat ourselves to breakfast. We found a lovely cafe with outdoor seating, as once again it was a very clear day and we were out and about without our fleeces. I had French Toast for the first time. I don't know who thought to put eggy bread together with baked banana and crispy bacon but it was delicious!
We had a look around the shops and got a couple of bits and pieces. Dan finally found a belt for his walking shorts / trousers, which were almost falling down every time he stood up! And then we found a coffee shop WITH FREE WIFI!!! Wow wow wow!!! This is only the second shop in NZ we've come across with free wifi so we were a bit giddy and it gave Dan an unnecessary excuse to have a coffee!
After a couple of hours we carried on up the Coast, stopping a couple of times at some lovely sandy beaches for a stroll. We decided to head to the boundary of Abel Tasman National Park in order to do a nice long walk the following day so we stopped on our way in a little village called Kaiteriteri and booked a water taxi to take us a third of the way along the track in the morning so that we would be able to walk back at our own pace. Dan drove us the final 2 ks to where we would spend the next couple of nights in Marahau, which was on the Park boundary. Another quiet early night, after some Glee of course!!
Our alarms woke us at 7am in order to be up, dressed, breakfasted and ready to go with a packed lunch by 8am. We were a bit hasty yesterday booking our water taxi because the company we booked with didn't pick up from Marahau. They only picked up from a little beach called Coquille Bay, which was a half hours walk along the track. Not far I hear you say, true, but this is on top of a 22 km walk and we discovered that another company DID collect from Marahau beach, which was a 30 second walk from our camper-van! DOH!!
So, we set off on a slightly cold and overcast but dry morning to reach the Bay by 9am. It was a 15 minute walk to the start of the track so when we finally arrived at the Bay we were definitely warmed up and into the swing of the walk, not the best time to have an hour's break but never mind. The aqua taxi collected us, albeit slightly late, and we boarded a small catamaran which made it's way North around the coast. After about 15 minutes the Captain stopped the boat to show us Torrent Bay and Anchorage. This was where most of the people on the boat were walking to so it gave them a vague idea where the boat would moor (most of them disembarked where we did, we were a little smug!) He then gave us a little history lesson about Abel Tasman National Park, stating that it was the youngest Park in New Zealand, opening in 1942. It is also the smallest. The track is 54.4 km long and most walkers complete the full length in three to five days. We would be doing 20 km in one day. What do people do on these trips??
Before we arrived at our destination we passed a Seal Colony and watched as some habitants attempted to sun themselves on the rocks before moving on to Bark Bay. (one small thing missing, and it wasn't rocks!)
We left the boat and admired another beautiful Bay and then made our way up a small path to the Coastal Track and set off back down towards Marahu. The track mainly hugs the coast but does occasionally move closer inland. It is a very spectacular and beautiful walk. The sea changes colour every time you look at it, depending on the depth and where along the coast you are. No two bays are the same, everything varies from the shape, the size, the colour of the sand and the type of vegetation surrounding them. There were big slabs of granite rock dotted all along the path and the coast line and this is what determines the colour of the beaches. Some were brilliant yellow, others were almost silver.
The path was mostly flat but did ascend and descend frequently. The highest point we climbed was only approximately 125 metres so it was some good interval training for us, my kind of walk! We came to the Falls River quite swiftly. This is the biggest river in the Park and can only be crossed by a 47m suspension bridge, on which we had lots of fun bouncing around while crossing!
After around an hour we came to Torrent Bay and one of the tidal estuaries. As it was low tide we were able to walk across the sand and mud and shave off an additional 2 km. We came to the first stream making it's way through this huge area and managed to keep our feet mostly dry when we jumped across. We knew we wouldn't be so lucky when we came to the next one, which was at least two metres wide, so off came the boots. The water was absolutely freezing and we were glad to get out the other side. We decided to carry on walking bare foot in case there was more water to cross so onwards we went, through the squelchy mud, which was not at all pleasant. Eventually we came to the last little stream and we could see where the granite path started and the bay ended so we dried our feet with the trouser legs of Dan's shorts and put our boots back on. We walked on for five minutes and came to Anchorage Beach, which was beautiful, and deserted so we stopped and had lunch as this was our half way point.
We found some rocks to sit on close to the cliffs and ate our sandwiches. Dan went off for a little explore and called me over. He showed me herds and herds of shells clinging on to the bottom of the cliff face. I was a little nervous about leaving our bags on the rocks, even though I knew there was nothing of value there but still (that's the Northerner in me!) so I went back to our rock to find our lunch bag on the floor in the sand and a seagull stood a couple of metres away with Dan's banana in his mouth. I shouted at the bird but he flew away, with the banana. Dan was not impressed. The Gull was obviously watching his weight because he left behind the cookies and cereal bars!
The weather remained cloudy, with some bright spells but no active sunshine. The last half of the walk took us through forests of beech and kanuka trees. We only saw a handful of people throughout the whole hike but you could see why over 250 hikers a day would use the track in the height of summer, it was awesome.
We passed Coquille Bay and knew we only had an hour left, but it seemed much longer. The path is well formed and is similar to walking on concrete so our ankles were starting to hurt, but before too long we could see the road and after seven hours total we had completed 22 km. And that's when the sun came out!!
I fell asleep whilst reading, and Dan enjoyed a well deserved beer while looking through his photos. We had a very early dinner of before settling down to watch LOTR, The Two Towers.